Arbitrary rules show immigration bureau is ‘disrespectful, rude’—Migrante International

A migrant group condemned what it called arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) against Filipino travelers its agents suspect may be victims of human trafficking.

Following reports of several passengers barred from travelling in March alone, Migrante International (MI) said the BI may have violated the right to travel of migrant workers and other overseas bound Filipinos.

Mi cited the case of Abu Dhabi-based expatriate Natalie dumlao who was not allowed to board her flight to Hong Kong last March 20 despite presenting all the required travel documents.

The immigration officer told her to cancel her United Arab Emirate residence visa first before being allowed to proceed with her pleasure trip with her partner.

MI said there is no such rule in the books.

The group also cited a Dubai-bound Filipino off to visit his sister who was offloaded twice last month despite carrying travel documents.

An Israel-bound Filipina was also asked unreasonable questions and asked to present a graduation yearbook at the immigration counter in the same time period.

Social media lit up with more stories of travelers prevented from boarding their flights after Dumlao’s complaint became viral.

“These incidents clearly show the arbitrary imposition of flight restrictions on OFWs who are about to depart the country. These restrictions violate OFWs’ right to travel and work abroad and are openings for bribery and corruption. This is no way to treat the country’s supposed new heroes, the lifesavers of the country’s economy,” MI said.

The group added that the arbitrary restrictions show that the BI and the Marcos government are not serious in fighting human trafficking.

“On the contrary, these actions show that they are a failure in this area,” MI said.

MI said that if the goal is to combat or stop human trafficking, the BI and the Marcos government can increase their information and education efforts against human trafficking among prospective migrants and the public.

“They can look for and punish human traffickers, and not the suspected victims,” MI said.

Disrespectful immigration officers

While saying many are doing their job well, MI also accused the immigration bureau of having some of the most disrespectful, if not outright rude, immigration officers in the world.

“We blame this on the orientation given to them; they should not be playing their present role in fighting human trafficking,” MI said.

The BI has since apologized to the victims.

MI added that if the Marcos government is really serious in fighting human trafficking, it should create decent jobs in the Philippines.

“So far, it is an utter failure in this respect, as unemployment continues to increase and no palpable efforts are seen with regard to job generation efforts that are led by the government,” it said.

The group reiterated its call for the junking of exorbitant and money-making restrictions on OFWs to travel, such as the Overseas Employment Certificate, which is just an added burden, another state exaction on OFWs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Yearbook requirement’ at Manila airport? Filipino tourist wears full graduation attire instead

The traveler said the parody was not aimed at mocking anyone but to highlight the ‘unreasonable stringent screening at the Philippine immigration’

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

After the reported fiasco of a Filipina tourist being asked lengthy and ‘unreasonable’ questions, including a demand to present her 10-year old-graduation yearbook, at the Philippine immigration, a 25-year-old vlogger and Filipino tourist arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on Friday wearing a toga or academic regalia worn in graduation ceremonies.

“It was not meant to ridicule immigration officials but to highlight the fact that some Filipino tourists were held unreasonably at the airport and barred from leaving the country,” Jim Morales said.

“Someone brought a diploma; so, I brought a toga to be different,” added Morales, who came to the airport wearing a black toga and a mortarboard cap with a tassel while holding his luggage.

He posted his photo on his personal Facebook account and it immediately went viral, gaining around 3,000 funny reactions, and was shared over 1,300 times, with some people commenting: “It may look funny but it was [a commentary] on ‘ridiculous’ immigration officials. They asked for a graduation yearbook, and here’s someone who came in toga.”

Morales clarified he did not wear the attire at the immigration counter but he had made his point. “They might be offended,” he added in jest, but firmly explaining the parody was not aimed at mocking anyone but to highlight the “unreasonable stringent screening at the Philippine immigration.”

Update: ‘He graduated’

In keeping up with the humor, Morales posted a fresh photo of him on Saturday morning reaching his destination in Japan. Like in a graduation ceremony, he tossed the mortarboard cap and smiled gleefully while holding a ‘diploma’.

In his post, he wrote the caption translated as: “When you have surpassed the questioning of immigration authorities in the Philippines.”


Meanwhile, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) has earlier clarified that Filipino tourists don’t need to bring their yearbooks to the airport. They also issued an apology and explained they were “constrained to implement strict measures to assess departing passengers” as part of their task to combat human trafficking.

According to Philippine Bureau of Immigration, a total of 32,404 Filipinos were deferred from departure last year. Of these, however, only 472 were reported to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment, while 873 had produced fraudulent documents, and 10 travelers were found to be minors who sought to work abroad.

Dubai-based travel professional, Geoffrey Salatan, who is managing director at MRG Pinas Travel, said he had seen a lot of Filipinos who were denied from going abroad.

“Being offloaded from a flight is not only frustrating but also financially draining. Imagine how much time, money and effort these passengers have put into planning their journey, only to be stopped from boarding a plane?,” he added. #

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This March 25, 2023 report is original to Khaleej Times, republished with permission from the author.

UAE-based Filipino barred from travelling as tourist by Manila immigration officers, asked to ‘cancel’ residence visa first

A Dubai-based expert stressed that while ‘it is true that there are Filipinos who go to other countries and then fly to UAE to work, it may also be true that a passenger merely wants to have a vacation’

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

A 27-year-old Filipina expatriate who visited her home country recently was barred from going to Hong Kong by a Philippine immigration official, who told her she had to “cancel her UAE residence visa first” before she can leave the country as a tourist.

Nathaly Dumlao, 27, who works as an HR (human resources) executive in Abu Dhabi, said the incident happened on March 20. She and her partner had been planning for weeks to celebrate their anniversary and the latter’s birthday in Hong Kong.

They came to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila with all the documents in hand — including return tickets, bank statement, hotel reservation, etc. — to prove they are tourists.

She narrated: “At the primary inspection, an immigration officer named Paola told me I could not leave the Philippines as a tourist because I have an existing UAE residence visa and my Emirates ID is still active.”

Dumlao said all her work documents are still active because she is going back to work in the UAE after the trip. “We are just going to relax, unwind and celebrate our anniversary in Hong Kong,” she added.

The Abu Dhabi resident also furnished a copy of her overseas employment certificate (OEC) — a mandatory travel document for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) – to prove that she is going back to her job in the UAE.

Secondary inspection

Dumlao said they went to a secondary inspection, where they furnished copies of their bank account and small business registration in their hometown.

“An immigration official asked: ‘Why do you carry this much money? – and I replied that is my savings from my salary,” said Dumlao, adding: “I was also planning to buy some luxury bags in Hong Kong.”

Dumlao’s partner, a former UAE resident who has relatives in Dubai, was also interviewed separately.

‘Go to UAE Embassy’

According to Dumlao, the tedious questioning, repeated explanation, argument, and waiting went on for over two hours, making them miss their flight.

“In the end, Paola (the immigration official) told me I will only be allowed to travel to Hong Kong if I cancel my UAE residence visa,” said Dumlao, adding: “I was told to go to the UAE Embassy in Manila to have my work visa cancelled before I can travel as a tourist.”

Here’s a note that the officer handed her:

Dumlao continued: “The immigration official added: ‘Have your OEC verified again by the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration). We cannot let you travel as a tourist because you are an OFW and you have an active working visa.”

“My partner, meanwhile, got the green light to travel,” Dumlao added.

Dumlao and her partner were not able to celebrate their anniversary in Hong Kong. Dumlao instead waited for her return flight to the UAE on March 23. She said she did not encounter any other problem but she met the same immigration official at the airport who wished her “to have a safe flight.”

Dumlao is now back in Abu Dhabi.

Hunting for jobs abroad

The Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) has earlier said they are implementing stringent screening as part of their task to combat human trafficking. They are looking out in particular for Filipinos travelling as tourists but are actually hunting for jobs abroad.

In the case of Dumlao, she admitted she left the Philippines via Singapore as a tourist way back in 2017 and was able to find suitable employment in the UAE. This was pointed out by the immigration officials who interviewed her.

Dumlao argued she has regularised her status since then. She’s now a documented OFW, who is registered with the POEA, and has paid her dues as an Owwa (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) member.

After almost five years, she went home in October 2022 and went back to the UAE a month later with no hassle at the Manila airport. She only showed her OEC, also known as exit clearance/pass, a document presented to the immigration officer at the airport of exit in the Philippines, certifying the documentation of an OFW and proof of his/her registration with the POEA.

What the law says

According to Philippine Republic Act No. 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, Republic Act No. 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), Filipino tourists need only to show a passport, visa (when required), and round trip ticket to travel.

“The Bureau of Immigration shall conduct a secondary inspection of a traveler, when deemed necessary, for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment and other related offenses, through the assessment of the following circumstances: a) Age b) Educational attainment and c) Financial capability to travel.

“Any passenger/traveler who will be subjected to secondary inspection shall be required to accomplish the Bureau of Immigration Border Control Questionnaire (BCQ) to be furnished by the immigration officer.”

‘Clear violation’

Dubai-based migrant rights advocate Barney Almazar said there was a violation of Dumlao’s human rights.

Almazar, who is also director at Gulf Law in the UAE, Philippines, UK and Portugal, explained: “Requiring a traveler to cancel a valid UAE residency as a condition to visit another country for a vacation is a clear violation of the guidelines on departure formalities for international-bound passengers in all airports and seaports in the Philippines.

“OFWs on vacation but visiting other countries before returning to original worksite/destination need not get a POEA travel exit clearance/OEC. Hence, the traveler is considered a tourist and is not exempt from travel tax and terminal fee, but shall be allowed to travel,” he underlined.

Almazar noted: “It is true that a lot of passengers will go to Hong Kong or other Asian countries and then fly to UAE or elsework to work, to avoid OEC. But it may be also true that the passenger merely wants to have a vacation. OFWs also have the right to go on vacation.”

“The immigration officer noted Dumlao’s previous travel record to Singapore, a destination frequently used as a jump-off point to work in Dubai. Dumlao may have violated the law then when she posed as a tourist in Singapore to avoid securing OEC, but her status was already cured by the subsequent act of registration with POLO in Dubai,” Almazar underlined.

Right to travel

The case of Dumlao is not isolated. Last week, Khaleej Times reported the story of a Dubai-bound Filipino tourist who was offloaded at the Philippine airport twice after he failed to show an affidavit of support and guarantee (AoSG).

Earlier, a Filipina tourist missed her flight to Israel after a Philippine immigration official allegedly asked her lengthy and ‘unreasonable’ questions, including a demand to present her 10-year-old graduation yearbook. Her sad fate went viral on social media and this prompted another Filipino traveler to bring her own college diploma to the airport, in case an immigration officer will ask for it.

Another tourist, a 25-year-old vlogger, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila wearing a toga or academic regalia worn in graduation ceremonies. “It was not meant to ridicule immigration officials but to highlight the fact that some Filipino tourists were held unreasonably at the airport and barred from leaving the country,” Jim Morales told Khaleej Times.

These incidents prompted the call from travel and migration experts to review the stringent immigration screening, including presenting bank statements, graduation yearbook, or diploma to prove that they are fit to go abroad.

Almazar noted: “There is a constitutional safeguard guaranteeing the right to travel, which shall not be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health. The liberty to travel has been repeatedly abridged, impaired and violated by no less than the immigration officers. Passengers are being offloaded despite absence of proof that the travel is inimical to national security, public health and public safety.”

Scrap OEC

In particular, Almazar is calling for the abrogation of the OEC. He noted: “It is an antiquated system. Its mandatory application has never been efficient to serve a legitimate public purpose. A voluntary system of registration is a less burdensome measure that would suffice to achieve the government’s purpose of curtailing human trafficking.”

“The advantages of giving immigration officers unbridled power on the premise of protecting passengers are outweighed by its disadvantages. The Philippine Congress must correct these lapses soon, lest we see more Filipino travelers being abused,” he said. #

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This March 28, 2023 report is original to Khaleej Times, republished with permission from the author.

Sr Pat to contest non-renewal of missionary visa

Lawyers of Australian missionary Sr Patricia Ann Fox, NDS said they will ask the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to reconsider its denial to renew or extend the nun’s visa.

Attys. Jobert Pahilga and Ma Sol Taule said that BI is mistaken in deciding Fox’s missionary visa has long expired, explaining the 10-year extension and renewal rule should only apply to her case on the day the BI converted her tourist visa on September 5, 2014.

“[When] the BI approved the conversion of Sister Fox’s tourist visa into a missionary visa, she was given a new or a fresh period of 10 years from the said date or until 2024 to stay in the country,” the lawyers said in a statement.

In an order dated September 13, the BI denied Fox’s application to renew or extend her missionary visa, saying her current visa has long expired.

The BI cited its the Memorandum of Agreement with the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines dated November 10, 1997 which restricts missionary visa holders for up to 10 years in the country.

The BI also said it has already issued a deportation order against the nun for her alleged violations of the conditions of her missionary visa and “undesirability”.

The BI’s orders are widely seen to have stemmed after President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated verbal attacks as well as accusations that the missionary has participated in rallies against his government.

Fox’s lawyers however said that the deportation order against Fox is not yet final and executory as it is under appeal with the Department of Justice.

“The decision to grant or deny the application for extension or renewal of her missionary visa should not be based and hinge on the order of deportation. And even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the decision of the BI whether to extend her missionary visa will be ‘without prejudice to the resolution of her appeal,’” the lawyers said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Australian lawyer says reason for deportation ‘preposterous’

Australian lawyer and human rights advocate Gill Boehringer said he has instructed his Philippine lawyers to contest allegations cited by the Bureau of Immigration in planning to deport him.

Boehringer, tagged as having associated himself with communist groups in the Philippines, is being prevented from entering the country since August 8 upon arrival from Sydney.

“I have instructed my lawyers to contest all allegations against me, and to seek the lifting of the ‘blacklist’, the ‘watchlist’ and the exclusion order,” he said.

The former Macquerie University law school dean and professor in a statement said the allegation by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency that he is associated with underground groups in the country is “preposterous”.

“It seems that in the Philippines today almost anyone can be labelled a terrorist or in association with terrorists. I deny the accusation. I certainly am not a supporter of terrorism from whatever source,” he said.

Boehringer said he did not attend the anti-Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation rally in the Philippines in November 2015 and there was no rally in February 2018 when he observes Lumad schools activities in Mindanao.

He explained that his participation in Lumad school activities was based only on his special interests in teaching and research.

“I believe there is no basis for my exclusion from the Philippines in what was an educational experience for myself, the others who travelled with me into the mountain district, and also, I like to think, for those we met with there,” he said.

Boehringer admitted he had been critical of policies of successive governments since he became an international observer of the 2007 and 2010 elections but denied these as activities of a terrorist.

“Rather, they might more appropriately be considered an attempt to make a rational contribution within the vibrant national discourse about how democracy can be strengthened, the rule of law protected and social justice ensured,” he said.

“I would ask the government to recognize me as a person who has visited the country over many years with no subversive intent. I have sought in an intellectual way, through public dialogue, to aid in the maintenance of the rule of law and the structures and processes of democracy,” he added.

Boehringer thanked his lawyers and his doctors for taking care of him throughout his ordeal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, as well as the individuals and supporters who called on the Rodrigo Duterte government to allow him entry to the Philippines on medical and humanitarian grounds, to no avail.

Boehringer travelled to the Philippines to visit his Filipino wife.

Meanwhile, Boehringer’s physician, Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes, slammed the BI on its decision to deport the 84-year old lawyer.

“The Bureau of Immigration is being heartless in pursuing the deportation of Prof. Gill Boehringer, Rivera-Reyes of the Health Action for Human Rights said.

She said Boehringer “has a history of an almost fatal pulmonary embolism. Aside from his risk of having deep vein thrombosis, he is currently suffering from cellulitis on both legs,” she explained.

Human rights group Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, which counts Boehringer as a member, also said it condemned his detention and planned deportation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BI orders Sr. Pat’s deportation; lawyers to file motion for reconsideration

The Bureau of Immigration has ordered the deportation of Australian missionary Sr Patricia Anne Fox for allegedly violating the limitations and conditions of her stay in the Philippines as a missionary visa holder.

In a resolution received by Fox’s lawyers Thursday, July 19, the BI said Fox violated Commonwealth Act No. 163, otherwise known as The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, making her “undesirable” in the Philippines.

The BI said the nun, a member of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion and coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, “illegally engaged and interfered in Philippine political activities” in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The BI Resolution sent to Fox’s lawyers.

Last April 16, BI agents arrested and detained Sr Patricia Fox after she participated in a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindanao.

Fox and her lawyers explained that her defense of human rights and campaign for land reform are religious in nature.

The nun’s troubles began after President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened her with deportation earlier this year. The president has also repeatedly derided Fox in subsequent speeches, even calling the nun’s God as “stupid”.

Fox, however, gained support from many churches as well as strangers. The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives later filed a resolution for her naturalization as a Filipino.

Motion for reconsideration

Atty. Ma Sol Taule, one of Fox’s lawyers, told Kodao they are considering filing a motion for reconsideration at the BI on Monday, July 23.

“[Fox’s] legal team is dismayed [with the BI resolution]. The BI’s decision is wrong, Sr. Pat has been doing her missionary work in the Philippines for the past 27 years undisturbed by any deportation case,” Taule said.

Taule added that helping the poor is not a risk to public interest, peace or order and that, in fact, the government must thank [Fox] for her selfless service to the oppressed Filipino people.

“Duterte has no basis to say that Sr Pat is an undesirable alien, unless his definition of undesirability is helping the poor,” Taule added.

The lawyer said the Fox’s missionary work with the poor is not defiance to the [Duterte] government but a firm solidarity to the poor and their struggles. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sr Pat Fox and her people

The Philippine government must have thought her subversive and wanted her punished.

Last April 16, Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents arrested and detained Sr Patricia Fox of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion. The arrest may have stemmed from her recent participation in a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindanao that so-rankled the military. Australian by birth, tall, white and blond, she was obviously a foreigner who they must have thought has no business participating in political activities, particularly those that point out the Rodrigo Duterte regime’s many human rights violations.

But the military and the BI could not be more wrong. Not only did Sr Pat make the Philippines her home for 27 years, she dedicated her mission to helping farmers in their agrarian reform struggles. A volunteer of the peasant group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura in Central Luzon and a human rights defender of long-standing, she has long been considered a compatriot by the farmers and the workers. For them, the kindly nun is more Filipino than most.

When news of her arrest broke out, lawyers and human rights workers rushed to the BI office in Manila to support her. Not long after, nuns and priests followed. Before the night was over, a bishop, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, came.

Still, the BI refused to let her go. The agency wanted the elderly nun investigated for being an “undesirable alien.” Word went round that the government wanted her deported.

Sr Patricia Fox, NDS upon her release from detention. (SINAGBAYAN–Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan photo)

It only galvanized more support for the beleaguered nun. This morning, the rally in downtown Manila organized to defend judicial independence and to denounce US bombing in Syria made a detour to the BI to call for Sr Pat’s release. Before long, more nuns visited and yet another bishop, Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Yniguez, came. Prominent activists and legislators also arrived. It must have been shocking to the BI to witness that their unassuming prisoner is well-loved by many, both prominent and humble, young and old.

Outside of BI, statements flew fast and thick. It did not only come from Manila or from Central Luzon where she does her Godly work. It came from as far sa Mindanao and abroad. Social media lit up with condemnations of her arrest and calls for her release. Photos of her remaining calm and even smiling were shared widely. Politicians who do not care about her work also condemned her arrest.

At three o’clock this afternoon, the BI had no choice but to let Sr Pat go. Still, they threatened her with more investigations. Sr Pat’s troubles with the Duterte regime is just beginning it seems.

Outside of BI’s gates, the nun was mobbed both by supporters and the media. Yet there she was, smiling and radiant. It must have been an ordeal for a 71-year old and frail-looking woman to be arrested and detained for more than 24 hours. This early, though, it is clear who is losing in this struggle. This early, it appears it is this tyrannical government and its highhandedness that is undesirable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)